Area resident Reg Kirkham stands near empty Reay Creek pond in Sidney as crews work concurrently on remediating the pond and renovating the dam that has created the pond. Kirkham says crews have done professional job, but fears that authorities are not doing enough to protect the ecological health of the area in the long-term. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Upgrades to fish habitat in Sidney won’t meet deadline

Federal government said it won’t complete work on Reay Creek pond until work on dam is complete

Ecological improvements made to a Sidney fish habitat by the federal government will not meet a deadline ostensibly designed to protect that very habitat.

A spokesperson for Transport Canada said the remediation of Sidney’s Reay Creek Pond will not be finished by Sept. 15, but did not give a new date.

“To accommodate the work, the Town of Sidney is upgrading its dam,” said senior communication advisor Sau Sau Liu. The re-filling of the pond for the KEL¸SET (Reay) Creek Pond Remediation Project will be completed “after the Town’s work is finished,” she said.

The separate but related projects are happening simultaneously. Sidney hired QM Environmental to renovate the dam at the same time the company did remediation work for the federal government, which has acknowledged its responsibility for polluting the pond.

The choice to do the work concurrently came with the promise of limiting the ecological damage to the pond, because crews would only have to drain the pond once, not twice. Crews faced a completion deadline of Sept. 15 to accommodate the fact Reay Creek is a salmon habitat.

Jenn Clary, Sidney’s director of engineering, confirmed Wednesday afternoon the municipality has approached the Department of Fisheries to extend the Sept. 15 deadline for work in the water to help complete the dam 2020. She also added that “above water work for both projects” will extend past Sept. 15. “This has been communicated through information and media releases posted on the Town’s website,” she said.

Clary confirmed that the necessary paperwork to get Sidney’s portion of the work (the dam) underway was not signed until Sept. 2 as announced in a press release.

When asked about the reasons for the delay between council’s decision to hire QM Environmental and the signing of the contract, Clary said many thing delayed the contract’s execution included but not limited to the preparation and reviewing of updated pricing; finalizing contract terms; and contract review.

“Because this is a unique contracting situation, many items needed to be clarified and discussed prior to executing the contract,” she said. “Although the contract execution was delayed, both QM Environmental and the Town of Sidney worked in good faith while the contract was in review. Site preparations and planning were undertaken to ensure that there would be minimal financial or scheduling impact.”

Sidney’s contract with QM Environmental is a so-called time and materials unit rate contract, which bases the contractor’s pay on the actual completed work with rates for labour and materials pre-determined prior to the start of the work.

The municipality announced earlier this month that the new total estimated cost of the project now stands at $1,050,000 after adding $150,000 to the original budget “due to the uncertainty of the nature of renovation work and the contract type.”

Ian Bruce, executive coordinator for Peninsula Streams Society, said the fisheries deadlines can often be extended, depending on current weather conditions and whether fish are actually migrating in the stream.

RELATED: Sidney joins federal government in Reay Creek improvements

RELATED: Residents around Sidney’s Reay Creek Pond welcome federal remediation efforts

Stopping the project at this stage because of the Sept. 15 deadline would actually harm the fish, said Bruce.

“If they are not done, they are not done,” he said. “The deadlines are supposed to protect fish. If the project is half finished and they shut the project down, that would be way worse than continuing on in most cases. They need the project finished.”

Overall, Bruce appears pleased by the project’s progress.

“It was a little late getting going, as everyone knows, but I believe that they have been doing well, and things are progressing quickly right now.”

When asked for a long-term prognosis about the area’s ecological health, Bruce fully expects the return of animals who have made the pond its habitat, including salmon.

“The pond volume will be larger, so we will able to accommodate more fish bearing.”

Other new features in the pond should also help, while a new fish ladder will help migration, he said, before adding a proviso. While it is all “fine and well” to create or restore fresh water habitat for salmon, it is inconsequential if the oceans continue to deteriorate, he said.

Bruce expects the work will leave the pond itself and the area in general in a much better state. “I fully expect it is going to be a very, very nice habitat for plants, animals and people.”

Reg Kirkham, who lives directly opposite the pond, praised the professionalism of the crews, who have been working in his backyard for weeks. But this longtime observer of the pond and stream is also worried what will happen after the work has wrapped up. He is concerned that not enough has been done to prevent future damage to the pond and isn’t sure the municipality is the best manager of the area in calling for a more comprehensive plan.

When asked about Kirkham’s concerns, Bruce said the authority managing Victoria International Airport has implemented various “checks and balances” since the last major spill in 2004. “The authority has done a lot in terms of heightened response to spills,” he said, noting the authority has also implemented an audit system for tenants and invested considerable resources to clean up contaminants in the stream.

The Peninsula News Review also reached out to the federal government with a series of follow up questions and will update this story accordingly.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Sidney

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